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Buyer's Guide: 15in Notebooks

How to select the machine that's right for you

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Ram, bam, thank you, ma'am

Integrated graphics chips will take some of the main memory, so don't worry that the extra gigabyte in a 4GB, Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit system will be wasted - it won't. Discrete graphics chips come with their own Ram.

So 3GB is the minimum for an integrated system, and 4GB is a sensible purchase. Some high end laptops already ship with 8GB of Ram, but a lot of that really will be wasted if you don't also have a 64-bit OS.

Lenovo ThinkPad Edge

15.6in notebooks are not the acme of portability

Hard drive storage is cheap and plentiful - get as much as you can afford. Unfortunately, we're unlikely to see budget solid-state drives any time soon. Although the hardware is absolutely wonderful, the price is still very high. But these machines use Sata-standard HDDs, so swapping them for SSDs is generally straightforward.

Wireless communication is an essential feature for a laptop and every model here supports 802.11n Wi-Fi which is faster than the older 802.11g though you'll need an 802.11n-capable router to get the benefit. You may wish to pay extra for Bluetooth if you need to link to your mobile phone or some other peripheral.

A 15.6in notebook will weigh around 2.5kg - a lot to lug around if you want to take your machine with you wherever you go. You can buy 13in laptops with the same 1366 x 768 resolution that weigh a more convenient 2kg, and 11.6in or 12in laptops will generally offer the same resolution and be lighter still. The key point to note here: it's the screen's resolutio that governs how much content you can cram on it, not its physical size.

A fair few 15.6in notebooks come with higher resolutions than 1366 x 768, with 1920 x 1080 - the same as a 1080i or 1080p TV - the most commonplace. Again, you'll pay more for those extra good-for-HD-video-and-games pixels. ®

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